T Level Article (800 × 600 px)

Are T Levels the key to tackling the digital skills shortage? Meet a teacher & student who believe they could be

T Level Article (800 × 600 px)

Women employed in IT currently make up only 20 per cent of the total workforce – but for Black women, that figure is a mere 0.7 per cent, according to analysis by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT.  

As the UK faces a digital skills shortage, and specifically a shortage of females in the digital sector, are T Levels a key part of the solution?

Two-year courses introduced in 2020, T Levels are equivalent to 3 A levels and were developed in collaboration with employers to meet the needs of industry and prepare students for work, further training or study. T Levels mix classroom learning (80% of time) with an ‘on the job’ industry placement (20% of time).

In this article, we get an insight from a pioneering Digital teacher and a student, who is part of the first cohort to complete this qualification.

Let’s meet Katy and Shechinah to find out more about T Levels and how they could inspire more women into tech.

Meet Katy Walsh, a Digital T Level teacher from La Retraite Catholic School for Girls in Clapham

Katy is one of the first Further Education teachers in the country to pioneer the teaching of new T Levels qualifications. Katy is calling on others working in tech to consider becoming a Further Education teacher, part time alongside their current profession, to help skill up the next generation of talent in the fast-growing digital sector and inspire the next gen of female talent.

Katy Walsh

You’re one of the first Further Education teachers in the UK to pioneer teaching of T Levels – could you tell us exactly what a T Level is?

T Levels were designed in collaboration with employers to meet the needs of industry. They are qualifications for students aged 16 to 19, broadly equivalent in size to 3 A levels, that focus on technical and vocational skills. All T Levels combine classroom learning with on-the job training – the Digital Production, Design and Development T Level covers a wide range of subjects including web development, software development and user experience design and prepares students to enter the industry in a range of roles.

How do they differ from A levels?

The main difference between the Computer Science A level and the Digital Production, Design and Development T Level is that the T Level is tailored to the skills required in the workplace. T Level students are completely focused on the one subject and their future in that industry. With the A level, students have to split their time with 2 or 3 other subject areas which may not suit someone who wants to focus on developing skills like coding.

With the T Level there is lots of variety in the one course.

There is also the practical skills element, 20% of the course is an industry placement, which allows the students to get engrossed in the sector and really develop the skills that employers are looking for.

Do you think the introduction of T Levels will help more girls into STEM? If so, how?

I believe T Levels will help more girls into STEM subjects and jobs. In our first cohort, we had seven female students on the course and they are all either going onto university (to study computer science, cyber security or games development) or are starting apprenticeships in the tech industry. The T Level has an industry placement and a big focus on practical skills and this appeals to lots of young people.

What more can be done to help increase female representation in STEM industries?

I think the main way to increase female representation in STEM industries is for companies to work with schools and help students understand the different job roles that are out there. We had lots of people from a variety of digital roles, and different backgrounds, speaking to our students which has helped inspire them about their future.

We also participated in the ‘Women in Tech’ virtual festival.

Seeing so many successful women share their journeys in the tech industry was very beneficial to our female students.

One discussion on ethical hacking inspired my student Shechinah to choose to study the specialism at university. The women participating also made it clear that building a professional network is very important, as is finding a suitable mentor.

Finally, if companies are determined to encourage diversity in the industry, then they need to reach out to young people and offer them industry placements or work experience opportunities. Every school has a careers officer, so employers should get in touch with local schools and think about how they could facilitate a placement. If employers put in the effort to mentor students interested in STEM subjects, it will benefit them as an organisation – and the industry as a whole.

Meet 17-year-old Shechinah Asomaning-Ashmead, who studied a T Level in Digital Design and Development

Shechinah also completed a placement at the Department for Transport. Shechinah is celebrating finishing her course this summer. Shechinah wants to go into cyber security and ethical hacking and become a role model for other Black women in tech whilst helping protect consumers from cyber-attacks.

Shechinah Asomaning-Ashmead

You studied a T Level in Digital Production, Design and Development – why did you choose to study for a T Level?

I haven’t come from an IT background so choosing a digital qualification was a bit of a leap of faith for me, especially as the T Level was a new qualification. I did some research into cyber security and realised what an interesting career path it was. The IT sector is fairly male dominated and I wanted to become a role model for other black women in the industry, while protecting consumers from cyber-attacks.

My school held a T Level event where I found out more about the course content and the different topics that would be covered.

The combination of classroom learning and on-the-job training really appealed to me.

I also enjoyed learning practically and the course included an industry placement of at least 45 days which was a big bonus. I knew how valuable it was to be able to show you have real life industry experience when applying for jobs.

What are the benefits of a T Level, over an A level or an apprenticeship?

Taking a T Level is similar in both size and workload to taking 3 A levels, but the T Level course allowed me to specialise in a subject I was passionate about earlier in my education and career. T Levels mix classroom learning and on-the-job training so you have the benefit of still being in full time education, while experiencing what it’s like to enter the workplace. The fact that T Level courses are designed in collaboration with employers in the sector is reassuring because you know you are learning the relevant skills you need to land a job. If you are interested in T Levels, the Get the Jump content hub on the National Careers Service website brings together all the education and training choices available to young people in one place, including more information on T Levels.

We’re firm believers that you can’t be it unless you can see it! Can you tell us who some of your role models are?

I am very close to my family, and my mother is one of my idols. Although she does not work in STEM, having a strong woman in my life that took on so many responsibilities while my siblings and I grew up is inspiring.

I always strive to mirror her strengths and sacrifices in everything I do.

I’m grateful for the support my mother has provided throughout my education and career journey so far. Neither of us knew very much about T Levels when I finished by GCSEs so we did the research together and she supported my decision to take on this new course.  She even subscribed to some education magazines so she could keep up to date with any news on T Levels and find resources to help me with the course!

What more can be done to help increase female representation in STEM industries?

I think mentoring programmes are important so young women can seek support and advice from other women working in industry. I attended programs like ‘Think her Ambition’ and ‘Stemettes’ which really inspired me and encouraged me to pursue a career in the sector. These programmes play an important role in educating and inspiring more young women to consider careers in STEM.

Visual representation and role models are also important – I’m proud to be one of the first female Digital Production, Design and Development T Level students in the country and I hope to support other women to enter the industry.


Female College Students Opening Exam Results, A-Level, GCSE

A-Level Results Day: Girls in STEM remain outnumbered

Female College Students Opening Exam Results, A-Level, GCSE

Girls in STEM remain outnumbered, according to new analysis of today’s A-Level results.

Female students taking up STEM subjects has fallen at a quicker rate, decreasing by 0.7 per cent, compared to 0.04 per cent in male students. There have been significant decreases in ICT, Maths, Further Maths and Physics.

Overall, the percentage of students taking STEM subjects has also dropped marginally from 2021 – a 0.3 per cent decrease.

Positively, there’s been a 15.8 per cent increase in female students taking Computing in 2022. However, the percentage of girls taking Computing remains virtually unchanged this year.

Despite this, female students continue to thrive in the subject, with over half achieving either an A or A* grade

Speaking about the findings, Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA, Skillsoft said, “While the technology industry continues to grow rapidly, a diversity gap remains.”

“Currently, women make up just 17 per cent of the UK tech sector, signalling little growth over the last decade.”

“It’s disappointing to see that this trend is set to continue with this year’s A-Level results showing the percentage of girls taking maths, further maths and physics has decreased this year.” 

“There are so many programmes aimed at getting girls interested in these areas.”

“However, we need to go further to challenge and eradicate the old-fashioned views that are still very much ingrained in the public consciousness.”

“With over a quarter of female students saying they’ve been put off a career in technology as it’s too male-dominated, schools need to challenge this perception by offering female students opportunities to learn to code, build websites or use robotic toys.”

Overall, girls received more top A-level grades, compared to boys, but the proportion of those achieving top grades has fallen since 2021.

37.4 per cent of girls received more top grades, compared to 35.2 per cent of boys. Overall, 36.4 per cent of pupils achieved A* and A grades. In 2021, 44.8 per cent of pupils were awarded A grades and above.

However, this year’s results still remain higher than in 2019.

This is the first summer exam series since 2019. The education body, Ofqual, is advising not to compare 2020 and 2021 results with this year, because of the different methods of assessment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, public exams were cancelled and replaced with teacher-assessed grades.


Portrait of Smart Little Schoolgirl Looking Under the Microscope. In Elementary School Classroom Cute Girl Uses Microscope. STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Education Program

How to nurture the next generation of women in STEM

Portrait of Smart Little Schoolgirl Looking Under the Microscope. In Elementary School Classroom Cute Girl Uses Microscope.jpg

Article by Ana Sousa Dias, Manager Product Stewardship and Regulatory Affairs, Avantium

The outcomes and results of businesses are a culmination of many things – but arguably, there is no contribution larger than the work of our team members.

Team structures make up the essence of our companies, meaning that it is essential that our leaders foster an inclusive workforce that works for everyone. A work environment should be collaborative between everybody and look to uplift its current employees and potential ones, so that everyone feels motivated to achieve their potential.

By encouraging diversity, we are encouraging the varied and rich perspectives needed to drive innovation. For women in STEM, this is vital and will inform the next generation of people entering jobs in the industry. Already, we are seeing women championing a new wave of innovation, and with solid collaboration, we can continue to do so.

Creating the foundations

As Marie Curie said, “I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.” I believe that this applies to both leaders and budding young women wanting to start a career in STEM. Progress and success are built from the ground-up for most people, and the foundations in which one grows has to be carefully laid to ensure its sturdiness.

My background is in chemistry, more specifically I graduated in organic chemistry in the Universidade Nova de Lisboa.  I have been working on sustainable solutions since the beginning of the 2000s. During this time, I have gone from developing technologies to exploring environmental impact of those technologies and the safety of the products within the regulatory landscape. There have been many opportunities to test the waters of the different facets of chemistry which are also open for others to experiment with. And the great thing about innovation is that new possibilities are multiplying – STEM is an area of true variety and growth. It is vital that these opportunities are taken, to build up one’s experience and find a focus that inspires.

It is also important that leaders continue to offer opportunities and ways into the industry for younger women, whether this be through work experience for high school students or internships for those studying STEM subjects at degree level. Whilst education is a key component to harnessing the knowledge needed to work in the industry, in-person, hands-on experience is incomparable and exposes people to the skills needed to succeed. A mixture of the two, education and work experience, bring a rich and strong foundation for future generations of women to excel in STEM. In other words, this is a collaborative effort between leaders in the field and the budding scientists themselves.

Establishing the best possible environment

Taking my findings in sugar chemistry during my PhD in CICECO, Universidade de Aveiro, I joined forces with the equally passionate company in The Netherlands: Avantium, one of the very few scientific groups active in the sugar conversion field. This was a huge turning point for me, being the first opportunity to analyse data and explore more technologies and catalytical systems, benefiting from high throughput screening knowledge and capabilities of Avantium. Having solidified a passion for sustainable chemistry beforehand, it was ideal that I had found a match in a company which could help me excel both as an individual and in a team.

With a positive, motivational work environment, it becomes easy to grow and deliver. This is where companies must take initiative and continuously strive towards the best possible workplace, even those who are already succeeding in this. As workplaces are pushed to be more inclusive, businesses must remember that their team consists of individuals with diverse needs and lifestyles. In STEM, we must look to cater to every person and circumstance, wanting the best for employees so that we ensure good mental wellbeing and the best outcomes as a business.

Current leaders of STEM can reflect on our collective experiences, good and bad, to advise how we continue to harness inclusivity in all we do. My person experiences are hopefully a motivator to nurture women in STEM careers and continuously support changes that lead to equal opportunities.

And we must continue to keep mindful of the varying experiences of women who have unfortunately been underestimated and not offered the chances to excel in STEM. As someone who is thankful to be part of a team that wanted to help kick start my career in the industry, we must take these as examples of how we can ensure all women around the world are able to do the same.

We must collectively continue to do the same by offering opportunities to generations of underrepresented communities of all ages to be a part of the future of sustainable innovation. Technology and science move at an accelerated rate and with that, the way we approach developing next-generation technologies must be reflected in our approach to nurturing future scientists.

Representation matters

As demonstrated in many disheartening figures regarding workplace behaviour towards women, there are instances where discrimination is being made, based on gender, as well as race, sexuality and age. These behaviours are leading to some women feeling unsafe and undervalued, and risks preventing others from stepping forward and progressing in their careers. In telling experiences of women in STEM who have had positive, rewarding professional experiences, we can promote best practice for inclusive environments and ways to champion diversity. We must continue to represent the wealth of enrichment that can be gained in this field of work.

Visibility and representation are some of the key ways businesses can create a future workplace where women flourish and feel safe; young girls can envision themselves working in a STEM leadership position if they have the correct example of the ambition needed and path to follow to reach their goal. And whilst quota principles mean well, we must firstly lead by example through our efficiencies and performance, rather than by numbers.

Fundamentally, Diversity in leadership roles helps marginalised communities across the board, through visibility and showing that this achievement is possible. It also inspires others to follow, or through education and implementing practices that foster opportunities that encourage other women to enter the workplace.

From the perspective of providing sustainable alternatives, we are working for the future and need the most forward-thinking people to help do that. As a mother, I know that our work developing sustainable solutions will impact my child and her generation the most. But I also work to give her the example and confidence to be daring and outspoken qualities that are often pinned against women as ‘undesirable’.

Many women underestimate their own abilities and dilute their bold personalities to fit the mould constructed for them. It is our job as leaders to help them realise their full potential. My advice for budding women entering STEM – be eager, ambitious and enjoy each moment.

Keeping the momentum up

Whilst I feel I have been successful in my career as a woman in leadership and STEM, producing innovative, sustainable technologies, it does not stop there. My work in regulatory compliance and science has shown that in our everchanging world, discoveries happen every day. There is no single end goal, and the goalposts are always moving. This pace of change keeps me motivated to continue to climb to the next level and help lead the next generation to create more diversity into the industry.


Meet develop: an organisation helping introduce young children to STEM careers through new partnership

develop team with Canon Barnett STEM partnership

develop, a London-based software engineering recruitment firm, is donating £20,000 to a Tower Hamlets primary school to fund STEM education.

develop, which operates in London, Berlin and Miami, will donate £25 to Canon Barnett Primary School in Tower Hamlets for every placement it makes in the next financial year.

Based on 2021/22 figures, this will amount to a total of over £20,000 going directly towards STEM education in the form of toys, learning platforms, and equipment.

‘develop’ is hoping to help reverse the talent shortages in the software engineering industry by providing help at grass roots level to directly impact the education and prospects of inner-city children.

A recent UK survey of nearly 10,000 primary school children shows that only 17 per cent aspired to a career in science despite the overwhelming growth of the UK’s STEM industries.

In this article, we get an insight from develop and Canon Barnett Primary School and get their views on the partnership, why it’s important and getting young children into the STEM space.

Let’s meet Amy and Agata to discuss the partnership and how it will help support young children’s STEM education. 

Meet Amy Moore, Senior Marketing Manager at develop

Amy is the Senior Marketing Manager at develop. Here, we talk to Amy about develop’s decision to partner with Canon Barnett Primary School, the aims of this partnership and how we can encourage more girls into STEM careers.

Amy Moore

develop are donating £25 per placement to a primary school in Tower Hamlets – can you tell us more about this?

develop are incredibly proud to announce our partnership with Canon Barnett Primary School. For every placement we make this financial year we’re going to donate £25 to the school to fund important STEM toys and resources for the pupils. Based on our statistics from last year, the donation should amount to more than £20,000.

What are the aims of this partnership?

We see the skills gap in tech talent every day, and we know that in order to fix the pipeline issue it starts from educating people from a young age. Through our partnership with Canon Barnett Primary School, we want to provide resources to the pupils that open up a new world of possibilities to them, allowing them to explore careers that they haven’t considered. The earlier that opportunities are presented, the bigger impact they can have.

What more can be done to help tackle the talent shortages in STEM?

Young women aren’t considering technology careers as they grow up because they don’t have the encouragement to pursue a career in tech, and they are not being exposed to what working in the sector involves. This then creates a lack of role models and leaders for children to aspire to, and the cycle continues for the next generation.

Businesses are struggling to hire for roles. There aren’t enough Engineers out there to meet the demand, and this is only worsening over time – the tech talent shortage is no longer a female-only issue, it impacts everyone.

How can we encourage more girls into STEM careers?

Providing girls with the resources and information from a young age is crucial in encouraging them to pursue a STEM career. Technical skills are transferable, and benefit people in all aspects of their life whether that’s at school, in the workplace or at home.

Introducing coding courses into the core curriculum is one way that allows children to explore a range of careers in their day-to-day schooling.

Early exposure is crucial in dismantling assumptions that tech isn’t a career for girls.

Educating children and young people to explore career opportunities in tech is needed in order to inspire the next generation of tech talent. Awareness and investment in the early part of the talent pipeline should be a priority for all organisations.

Meet Agata Glonek, Science Lead at Canon Barnett Primary School

Agata is the Science Lead at Canon Barnett Primary School. Here, we discuss with Agata how the partnership came about, how it will impact their pupils and why it’s important to support STEM education.

You’re partnering with develop to support your STEM education – how did this come about?

develop reached out to us, as we’re local to their office and they were looking for an inner-city primary to partner with so they could really benefit the STEM education of younger children. They wanted to find out about our existing STEM initiatives, what our needs were and how they could supplement that. We were really excited about what develop wanted to offer, and the impact it would have on the children.

What impact will the funding offer to your pupils?

The funding is going to give the children opportunities that they would have never been able to have themselves. As a school, we would not have been able to afford the resources needed for STEM education of this quality or exposed them to the different types of careers that they probably haven’t even heard of before.

The children will now be able to access STEM education to see that technology is everywhere and there are various paths they can follow. I think there really needs to be more awareness that there is so much more out there, and technology is such a big factor in our lives. It’s everywhere, so we need to expose children more to those kind of tech areas that they probably are going to find themselves working in because, truth to be told, that’s where we’re heading. Tech is a huge industry in the UK and constantly developing and changing so it’s really beneficial for children to hear about that at a young age.

How important is it to support STEM education on a grass-roots level?

Children don’t know what exists unless they are exposed to it. When we ask our pupils what they’d like to do when they grow up, the choices are very, very standardised and very limited. They tell us they want to be a teacher, because that’s who they see every day, or a doctor, because they are familiar with those roles.

Exposing them to the roles they are not familiar with or have not had the access to learn about is so important for them to make informed decisions about their future.

There will be jobs out there that probably haven’t been invented yet. Preparing them for that is very important and making sure that we offer them a range of choices so they can really see what different types of jobs and workplaces are there, is really crucial at primary age.

How can we encourage more girls into STEM careers?

We need to include more tech-based learning and activities in Science and Maths curriculums to ensure STEM education is more accessible for girls, and to teach them from a young age that they are capable of achieving the career they want. We should be connecting the subjects in more relevant ways that show our children the types of experiences that are available to them.

If girls don’t know what is out there, how are they going to aspire to do something?

STEM careers are for everyone and should not conform to any traditional gender stereotypes. We want all of our pupils to aspire to what they would like to do and never feel that their gender should stand in the way of that.


Girls in tech, STEM

International Girls in IT Day: Why the future of tech depends upon girls

Girls in tech, STEM

From using online classrooms to applying for jobs and entering work with the tech skills employers expect: digital skills have become essential to thrive.

Yet, the stark reality of the gender digital skills gap means women and girls continue to be excluded.  It’s why initiatives like the United National Girls in ICT Day celebrated every 28th April are so important to shine a spotlight on opportunities for girls to thrive in their digital lives.

The context of exponential technology growth and digital transformation should allow for greater opportunities across society. But the benefits are more likely to be reaped by a small portion of the population, as women continue to be underrepresented in tech. A recent report on the Global Gender Gap by the World Economic Forum found women make up just 18% of Europe’s IT specialists.

Research from the Nominet Digital Youth Index, our annual report offering insights into young people’s digital experiences, shows the appeal of technology-related jobs is higher among young men – 78% vs 64% for young women and girls. Young people’s aspirations in this space are shaped by norms, stereotypes and a lack of role models. As a woman who has been in tech for over 10 years, I find I have to work harder to prove my expertise and encounter stereotypes, particularly around practical digital skills and capabilities.

Why does this matter? Firstly, this is an issue of equality and fairness in the opportunities to fulfil your potential – no matter your gender, background or personal characteristics. But it’s even more than that. Attracting more women in tech contributes perspectives and knowledge, bringing inherent value which is crucial to a diverse and thriving society and digital economy.

18%

of women pursuing degrees in tech-related subjects

Breaking the bias from an early age

With only 18% of women pursuing degrees in tech-related subjects according to Girls Who Code, schools, civil society groups, families and the media have a role to play in inspiring girls to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. We know that interventions which introduce digital early and actively counter stereotypes play a huge part in enabling girls to feel confident pursuing a career in tech later in life. This is underpinned by more general gender norms illustrating the importance of building confidence in girls, as studies have shown that girls start to lose their self-esteem from as young as 12 years old and to believe that ‘brilliance’ is a male trait from as young as six.

Nominet’s recent research with Catch 22 uncovers some of the systemic barriers to attaining digital skills. We found a need to overlay interpretations of barriers to digital skills uptake with an understanding of the factors of social disadvantage in order to drive change.

Digital Skills in Schools

School is a logical place to start when it comes to unpacking digital skills. Almost one in two (47%) UK teachers lack the adequate technology to effectively teach their pupils according to Tech4Teachers. This presents a challenge to educators to rethink what is being taught to children to prepare them for the future.

Outside projects provide valuable support for teachers with hands-on technical learning. For example, with support from Nominet, the Micro:bit Educational Foundation is running an initiative to teach tens of thousands of primary school children in the UK to code using pocket-sized computers, demonstrating how early stage tech skills can be introduced.

Research has found that teaching physical computing with the Micro:bit breaks down barriers for girls, increases student motivation and fosters broader skills such as creativity, teamwork and resilience. If children are to gain the skills required for a future digital career, there needs to be a fundamental curriculum shift in the way tech is taught.

3%

of women in the UK say a career in technology is their first choice

Making women in tech visible for the next generation

Research from PwC shows just 3% of women in the UK saying a career in technology is their first choice which is reflected in the tech workforce. When girls relate to “someone who looks like me” it is powerful for their self-belief and demonstrating what is possible. This is something I have seen first-hand in my role as a youth leader in my group of twenty five 11-14 year old young women.

For Safer Internet Day, we spoke about perceptions of careers in science and tech.  While girls expressed perceptions about “what kind of person pursues a career in the digital space,” we went on to discuss how many aspirational female role models are inspiring the next generation. It struck me how many of the barriers are around confidence over capability.

Technology as a catalyst 

Flipping the conversation, technology has the potential to be an enabler and to catalyse change. The Nominet Digital Youth Index found that over half of young people are teaching themselves digital skills. While we could interpret this as formal education not landing, it is also evidence of enthusiasm and willingness to troubleshoot and self-teach.

More diversity in those who take up tech jobs can help translate the aspirations of unique spectrums of society into the digital world. This will create representative perspectives in design resulting in more innovative, appropriate solutions, in turn leading to more inclusion. It’s the mantra: nothing about us, without us.

Diversity in tech requires a collective response and collaboration from industry, education, civil society and government to unlock the opportunities for digital skills today to realise equitable and thriving digital economies of the future.

Amy O'DonnellAbout the author

Amy O’Donnell is Senior Programme Manager, Social Impact, at Nominet where a large part of her role is to support partners in navigating the way digital technology is impacting young people in the UK. She leads on strategic pillars exploring digital transformation in mental health and widening participation in digital skills and careers.

With over ten years’ experience supporting social impact initiatives, and helping to design inclusive approaches in the context of new digital realities, she has played an active role in the strategic direction of the Nominet Digital Youth Index, offering interactive, annual benchmarking data and insights about young peoples’ experiences both on and offline.Amy is passionate about privacy by design, ethical good practice, diversity and intersectionality.

With previous experience as Digital in Programme Lead at Oxfam and Project Director for FrontlineSMS:Radio, Amy joined Nominet in 2021 and has brought with her vast international experience as a champion for responsible data and countering inequality in a digital world.She is also dedicated GirlGuide Leader and co-District Commissioner in Headington, Oxford, which most recently has involved running activities connected to Safer Internet Day 2022.


How robotics competitions can help get girls into STEM

young Japanese girl making friends with robot

As the Competition Support Manager for VEX Robotics in the UK, Bridie Gaynor has witnessed first-hand the positive impact educational robotics can have on primary and secondary students.

Bridie’s role requires her to travel frequently around the UK to facilitate the smooth running of local and regional events, with the competition season culminating every year for the VEX UK National Finals in March. These events are comprised of the VEX IQ Challenge (VIQC) and the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC), designed respectively for schoolchildren at Key Stage 2 & 3 and Key Stages 3 to 5. Whilst VIQC robots are created by teams of students using plastic, snap-together parts, and VRC robots are built with metal & steel parts, both platforms feature impressive control systems, including a brain that can be programmed using VEXcode IQ Blocks (powered by Scratch Blocks) or VEXcode Text.

What is perhaps most striking about the competitions that Bridie attends is the increasing number of young females who are participating. At the 2019 VEX UK National Finals, more than 50 per cent of the 700 students competing were female, a highly promising figure considering the current STEM shortage and the level of engineering, programming and design skills required to compete. Bridie hopes that she can inspire even more females to take part in the future, as the events continue to grow in stature:

“It’s amazing to think just how many female students are getting involved in VEX competitions and at such a young age, particularly when you consider the lack of gender diversity in STEM industries.”

“What makes VEX stand out from the crowd is the perfectly balanced practical and theoretical aspects of both the VEX IQ system and VEX EDR system.”

“We need to be showing girls that engineering, coding and tech isn’t just for boys, it’s for everyone and there’s so many different avenues in STEM to discover.”

Having worked at VEX Robotics for over six years, Bridie has been part of the journey of several all-girls teams who have been successful in serving as ambassadors for STEM in the wider community, including East Barnet’s Girls of Steel and Welwyn Garden City’s Microbots, both of whom have shared their experiences with tech-industry heavyweights form across the globe.

With the growth of the VEX community and the increasing uptake of female students competing overall, Bridie says it’s important to have more women in leadership roles like her to inspire the future generations:

“What’s fantastic about my job is that I get to serve as something of a role model that girls can look up to.”

“It’s great to be in a position where aspiring STEM students can see that women can really succeed in these industries and take charge of what is typically a male-dominated environment.”

“I truly believe that robotics systems like VEX give females a chance to get involved in STEM in a fun, exciting and engaging capacity, whilst setting students up for future careers in STEM”.

Bridie Gaynor featuredAbout the author

Bridie Gaynor is the Competition Support Manager in the UK for VEX Robotics.

She is responsible for supporting VEX events and teams across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.


Why gamification means motivation in the future of education

child playing game on white ipad

Article provided by Nikolas Kairinos, CEO, Soffos.ai

Nowadays, gamification technologies are gaining a lot of traction in educational settings.

This is hardly surprising in the current climate, as schools are only just easing out of COVID-19 enforced closures, and more generally grappling with how they can keep their students more engaged. As a rule of thumb, people from the millennials and Gen Z demographic, tend to get bored quite easily, so traditional lesson plans and courses are less effective methods of teaching them. Luckily, however, gamification technologies can be very effective when implemented well.

Whether you are a corporate training manager, a teacher or even a course provider, these technologies can mean the difference between unengaged students struggling to retain important information, and proactive learners ready to pass their examinations with flying colours and exceed their targets.

With this in mind, how can institutions stay ahead of the game when it comes to keeping their learners interested and engaged?

More than just fun and games 

Going back to basics, learning leaders should familiarise themselves with what gamification actually means in practice: It refers to the use of game-design elements and principles outside of traditional gaming contexts. The chances are, if you have tried to improve the ‘strength’ of your LinkedIn profile or swapped a loyalty card full of stamps for a free coffee at your local store, then you have been ‘gamified’ to one extent or another.

The idea of including these tactics in education specifically, is that people generally enjoy the gaming experience and tend to come back to learn more. Research suggests that playing video games releases dopamine in the brain – a ‘feel good’ chemical, which users then learn to associate with reward and success. Furthermore, learning from behavioural science also indicates that this motivation ‘nudges’ learners to press on with their objectives – whether this is reaching a new level of language fluency within an app, or racking up points in the classroom to trade in for a prize at the end of a school week.

Clearly, gamification strategies are intrinsic to motivation in educational settings, but where the real challenge lies not necessarily just getting knowledge-seekers to learn, but encouraging them to keep on learning to retain vital information.

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How can educators use gamification?

Educators might be wondering how gamification techniques and technologies work in context. This might depend on the specific learning environment – a corporate learning leader delivering a course on digital marketing to employees at an executive level will have vastly different requirements to a schoolteacher or a university professor.

For example, a high school English teacher looking to help students brush up on their ability to recall Shakespearean verse for an upcoming examination might use flashcard-creator apps and quiz platforms, which can be very useful devices in the memory retention process. In fact, even long before modern technology was available, one summative analysis of over 200 experiments conducted across 70 years actually suggests that learners are more likely to recall and retain new knowledge after using these devices, than if they were to simply take notes the regular way. In essence, this provides a simple solution which removes much of the onerous tedium out of the revising process, which might make students more inclined to put the preparation in ahead of their assessments.

Elsewhere, most teachers will be acutely aware of the unique challenges that come along with keeping students engaged throughout a full day of remote lessons. Back-to-back Zoom instruction can only stir so much enthusiasm, and educators will find that they are in need of something a little more special to remedy this. Integrating games into their lesson plans, as well as setting gamified tasks as extension or homework for accomplished learners would be a good start. A language teacher might benefit from allocating certain modules and courses to students on Duolingo, for example. Here, learners can compete against each other to top the leaderboard, earn virtual currencies, and acquire a new level of understanding, which should be a win-win for both student and teacher.

Beyond just improving knowledge retention, educators will likely find that implementing gamification makes their life easier, too. From a planning perspective, these technologies present learners with clear tasks and objectives, making progress much easier to monitor.

Ultimately, gamified technologies can help learners keep up with their educational goals, even when current circumstances are presenting a significant challenge. Ensuring that learning is a fun and stimulating experience should be high on the agenda for all educators.

Nikolas KairinosAbout the author

Nikolas Kairinos is the chief executive officer and founder of Soffos.ai, which is building the next generation of educational technology solutions. Whether you’re a trainer, teacher, or individual app user, the SoffosTM Cognitive AI Engine puts knowledge locked away in all your files and resources straight into the palm of your hand. 


International Day of Women and Girls in Science, African female scientist in protective glasses looking and testing tube chemical in laboratory, development for the future.

STEM growth across genders

International Day of Women and Girls in Science, African female scientist in protective glasses looking and testing tube chemical in laboratory, development for the future.

Sandra Mottoh, Regulatory Expert and passionate campaigner for re-addressing workplace gender balance specifically in male dominated sectors such as banking and tech, discusses the importance of encouraging girls studying STEM subjects from an early age.

Historically, we have seen fewer girls than boys studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in school, which over the course of multiple generations has resulted in a noticeable imbalance of women in the workplaces of STEM-related professions.

It is widely acknowledged there are multiple contributing factors but, in my opinion, the key one to identify is the lower number of female role models connected to STEM businesses, in prominent positions of power and in the mainstream media. As a society we must recognise that we have undergone a generation mindset shift, now rightly challenging our perceptions of what female, male and non-binary individuals can achieve. More than ever before, we are conscious to rebalance the gender bias within schools, university admissions, entry-level recruitment processes and ultimately who sits on the top of corporate boards.

We cannot underestimate the fact that some girls have a natural preference towards social sciences and the arts over STEM subjects, but undoubtedly can be successful in either. As a feminist, I believe girls’ preferences should be valued and celebrated. Girls should have equal access to opportunities should they desire to pursue a STEM qualification or not.

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Statistics show that significantly more men than women study the disciplines that most technical positions require, such as computer science or data science at Masters or PhD level. Therefore, in order to bridge the gap, there has been a noticeable trend with women taking up more management or administrative roles within STEM industries as an alternative route in; a strategic move that enables women leverage their (innate or learned) skill set within  STEM sector. My belief is that the technical industries could adopt the ‘innovative hiring process’ by inviting women from other sectors to join as subject matter experts, bringing with them a fresh and balanced perspective to the industry.

Both young girls and women need to see that there are role models in the sector and through their own work they too could be celebrated. These role models are more visible alongside their male counterparts and remain relatable to others – this is crucial for younger girls in particular to see women who look and sounds like them having successful and desirable careers in tech. One such women has carved such a path is Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Meta, formerly Facebook), who oversees the firm’s business operations such as sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications. As the first female on the Board of Directors at Meta, she holds an impressive position of power within a heavily male-dominated work environment that beautifully illuminates to ambitious youngsters what can be achieved with academic application and hard work.

Having learned lessons the hard way through my own personal career, my advice to young girls reading this or those in an educational position supporting the next generation, would be to not let fear get in the way of making a start – this is your first step. I cannot stress how important it is to just make a start and then keep going, as making it in the STEM world will take a concerted level of dedication and determination. Invest in yourself to ensure you acquire the necessary skills and work experience to forge the successful career in tech that you desire and deserve to have. Remember that tech is here stay for decades to come and will constantly be evolving at any increasingly rapid pace, so only those who are prepared will excel.

Sandra MottohAbout the author

Sandra Mottoh, who after working in Regulatory Compliance and Governance in the banking sector for the past 20 years, is now also focussing her social enterprise endeavours (AI White Box) on identifying the compliance gaps in the emerging AI sector. As a black woman, she is passionately campaigning to help more women enter the world of AI, particularly those coming from financially challenged and ethnic minority backgrounds. Her legacy is to model financial empowerment to women in a way that liberates their lives.


Female College Students Opening Exam Results, A-Level, GCSE

GCSE Results Day: Science gender gap closing fast

Female College Students Opening Exam Results, A-Level, GCSE

GCSE results day brings postive news for girls in STEM, as the science gender gap is closing fast.

Statistics released today show that the number of girls taking key STEM subjects has increased this year, including Physics, Biology and Chemistry.  The gender gap is closing fast, with more girls comprising over half (50.27 per cent) of the total number of students taking the three key science exams.

Figures also show that while there was a decrease in the number of girls taking Maths, there was an increase in girls taking the more rigorous Further Maths exam.

However, there is more work to be done. The number of girls taking Computing GCSE has fallen for the second year in a row, with the gender gap increasing – the proportion of girls taking Computing has fallen to 20.7 per cent in 2021 from 21.56 per cent in 2020. A silver lining is that girls did outperform boys in the top two grade bands 9-7/A and 6-4(C).

Agata Nowakowska, SkillsoftSpeaking about the latest figures, Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA, Skillsoft said, “GCSE results day is the pinnacle event on the school calendar.”

“This year, with lockdowns, homeschooling and the scrapping of exams, it’s been a tumultuous time – one that many students will not soon forget.”

“Following on from the A-Level results earlier in the week, it’s disappointing to see that the number of girls taking GCSE Computing and Engineering has decreased this year.”
“There are so many programmes aimed at getting girls interested in these areas, but we need to go further to challenge and eradicate the old fashioned views that are clearly still very much ingrained in the public consciousness.”

“It’s no coincidence that while most girls show some interest in STEM subjects at 10 or 11 years of age, this tends to wane by age 15.”

“Schools must continue to find new ways to keep girls engaged in STEM subjects, by providing the opportunity to build websites, learn to code or use robotic toys.”

“By showcasing female role models, organising technology-related events and working with schools to find new ways to inspire students, businesses can also continue to encourage involvement.”

“After all, female uptake in STEM has the duplicitous advantage of closing the gender and skills gaps, what’s not to lose.”

The results follow a second year of teacher-assessed results, after exams were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Students were assessed only on what they had been taught and were assessed on multiple pieces of work, giving them their best possible chance to show what they can do.

Students receiving results will have the opportunity to move on to a range of high-quality options. This is the second year that young people can move on to study T Levels, with seven new subject choices available from September, including Healthcare, Science and Onsite Construction.

Speaking on GCSE results day, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “Students should feel proud of their achievements and will now be looking forward to taking their next steps.”

“I am also hugely grateful to teachers and school leaders for their hard work to ensure students get the grades they deserve and need to progress to the next stage of their lives.”

“There have never been so many great options available for young people, whether that’s going on to study A levels, our pioneering T Levels, starting an apprenticeship or a traineeship.”

“Whatever option young people choose, they can do so with the confidence it will give them the skills and knowledge to get on in life.”

Getting girls into STEM


Below are just a few of the campaign groups encouraging and supporting girls and women in STEM and tech.

Next Tech Girls

Next Tech Girls is an initiative brought to you by Empiric with an aim of sustainability and strategically increasing the number of women in technology by securing meaningful tech work experience for girls.

1.46 Million people are employed within the technology sector in the UK and only 17% of them are women. We want to help change this.

Companies are increasingly recognising the value of diversity, leading to tactical solutions of hiring more women. This often results in merely moving existing talent around, shifting the problem from one company to another and having no long term impact.

There is a need and opportunity for strategic and early intervention.

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The Tech She Can Charter

The Tech She Can Charter is a commitment by organisations to work together to increase the number of women working in technology roles in the UK. It aims to tackle the root cause of the problem at a societal level by inspiring and educating young girls and women to get into tech careers and sharing best practice across the organisations involved.

As a group we know this is an important problem to solve as technology is set to influence every aspect of our lives. We need to ensure that the people creating our technology solutions are representative of the population and that females have an equal opportunity to take part in the jobs of the future.

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Step into STEM

Step into STEM is an award-winning mentoring and work experience programme delivered by Girls Talk London and funded by O2, BT, Vodafone & Ericsson. This programme provides individual mentors to females aged 16-18 who study a STEM subject and want to work in technology. Mentees on the programme attend a two-day Tech Summit in the summer which gives them access to talks by Senior executives, demos on the latest products and technology such as Virtual reality and Robotics plus a chance to meet all graduate recruitment and work experience teams across all businesses. To date 150 girls have been mentored via this programme.

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Stemettes

Stemettes is an award-winning social enterprise working across the UK & Ireland and beyond to inspire and support young women into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths careers (known collectively as STEM).

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Code First: Girls

Code First: Girls works with companies and with men and women directly, to help increase the number of women in tech.

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Girls Code Too

Girls Code Too UK is an organisation hoping to encourage young girls and students who identify as female to pursue tech careers through exposure to tech resources and role models. To do this we are providing workshop tutorials, materials, advice and support for volunteers to use to host their own workshops at local schools and community clubs in order to reach girls all over the UK (and beyond).

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How to empower young people and schools into tech' - She Talks Tech podcast

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'How to empower young people and schools into tech'

How to empower young people and schools into tech' - She Talks Tech podcast

Today we hear from Mark Martin. Mark is a computer science teacher and co-leader of ‘UK Black Tech’ – an innovation group trying to solve the biggest problems of today through representation and innovation

He’ll be discussing how young people can get access to opportunities in tech, how we can support and equip them in that and open career pathways for them.

You can find out more about and connect with Mark on Twitter @Urban_Teacher

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‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2020.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts – and the first three episodes are now live!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.